The Air Force says it is on track to meet recent regulations on the use of firefighting foam deemed problematic, having disconnected the foam systems at more than 1,000 installations, with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base among them.
So far, the Air Force has shut down aqueous fire fighting foam or “AFFF” fire suppression systems at 1,038 facilities out of 1,095 that used the foam, the Stars and Stripes newspaper said, citing a spokesman for the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, Mark Kinkade.
Such fire suppression systems were locked out at Wright-Patterson as of March 1, a spokeswoman for the 88th Air Base Wing said. The wing is responsible for the base’s infrastructure and security.
Congress gave the Department of Defense a Oct. 1, 2024, deadline to stop using AFFF foam when it passed the 2020 defense budget.
Some AFFF formulations contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of chemicals that have been widely used for decades in a variety of consumer applications but have been more recently linked to health hazards, including cancer.
Kinkade confirmed to this news outlet that the Air Force has stopped using the foam at about 1,038 of 1,095 facilities total.
“We are not including some hangars reported as complete until we verify,” he said. “The Air National Guard is contracting to complete lock out/tag out at some of its hangars this month.”
In October 2021, in a release on an “electrical component malfunction” on the base’s Area A, Wright-Patterson said then that its firefighters no longer use foam containing PFAS chemicals.
The October 2021 incident resulted in an “inadvertent release of about 100 gallons of fire-suppressant foam,” the base said at the time.
The foam released in that incident was an alcohol-based expansion foam, also known as Ansul JetX. In the event of a fire, that foam cools the blaze and coats the fuel, preventing its contact with oxygen, the base said at the time.
In a March 3 release, the Air Force said removing AFFF “is an important mandate for the Air Force as the service takes measures to reduce the risk of mission related PFAS release impacts on drinking water supplies.”
“The health of our Airmen, families and community partners is a top priority,” Michael Six, Air Force Civil Engineer Center Chief Fire Protection engineer, said in the service’s release. “Eliminating AFFF from our hangar systems is one more way we are honoring our commitment to the total Air Force team.”
Since the 1970s, the Air Force used AFFF foam at crash sites, in fire training areas and some maintenance hangers at active-duty, Reserve, Air National Guard installations.
In the U.S., the Air Force says it has been “systematically testing” for potential PFOS/PFOA contamination in soil, surface water and groundwater where AFFF may have been released.
Three local cities — Dayton, Fairborn and Bellbrook — are pursuing lawsuits against the government and against manufacturers, alleging PFAS contamination or potential contamination of water sources.
A city of Dayton lawsuit against Wright-Patterson and the Department of Defense filed in May 2021 was moved to a federal court in South Carolina in August 2021.
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